Freight News, Sea

A containership fire every week, says TT Club

[ June 3, 2021   //   ]

TT Club says the X-Press Pearl’s containership incident off Colombo is the latest in a disappointing recent and persistent catalogue of container ship fires, which occur almost weekly, the vast majority of them started by hazardous cargo. One estimate puts the number of mis- or undeclared dangerous cargoes in excess of 150,000 containers a year – each of which has disastrous potential, says the Club. 

While still to be fully investigated, the catalyst for the inferno on the X-Press Pearl has been asserted to be leaking nitric acid, which was correctly declared but apparently incorrectly packaged or packed.

TT Club’s risk management director Peregrine Storrs-Fox  said: “The offending cargo was apparently correctly declared, with its relevant properties known, and presumably originating from an experienced shipper. Yet for whatever reason the packaging was inappropriate or the packing and/or securing within the container was insufficient, resulting in a dangerous leakage.”

TT Club has been promoting awareness and wider use of the CTU Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units and seeking changes to regulations to improve clarity and enforcement of mandatory regulations, including the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox said that the latest meeting of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee in fact debated container ship fires.  “£However, such consideration will not result in speedy change,” he comments.  “Holistic industry led initiatives are necessary. An understanding by all the actors in the supply chain of safe packaging, packing, loading and unloading of containers, and of the need for detailed, accurate information of the cargo’s attributes and any potentially hazardous reactions to any eventuality occurring through the entire transit, is necessary.  Above all truth, trust and transparency must guide all involved.”

TT Club organised a series of three webinars earlier this year covering all aspects of container ship fires, which looked at packing, declaration and stowage crew response to incidents and aspects of forensic investigation and legal work leading through to the probable litigation after the event.  All three videos can be accessed at:

The ‘CTU Code – Quick Guide’ and ‘Container Packing Checklist’ has already translated and available in four of the official six UN languages with the remaining translations of the Quick Guide to be published soon.  It is currently available for download in English, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin and Traditional) and Spanish –—a-quick-guide/